The original development of the highly effective snap-jigging technique.
I developed a fishing method about 25 years ago that was and continues to be highly effective. This technique almost always outfished others using the usual methods, including live or dead bait. I had kept this technique, later named snap-jigging by the late, great Fred Golofaro, secret. My relatively small and close circle of fishing comrades liked the advantage that snap-jigging gave us and didn’t want to share. All things change in due time though. After a few years of constant prodding from Fred, I slowly started to write articles and give seminars. Today I see people snap-jigging all over the island. With this popularity comes some misinformation also. I’ve seen some individuals trying to perform the technique incorrectly, and some are in the public eye demonstrating their flawed version of the method on video—I am writing this to try and steer you in the right direction about the technique itself and the tackle needed. Snap-jigging is highly effective because it genuinely mimics baitfish and their behavior and how they also stimulate the lateral line of predatory fish.
The Basics Of It
Snap-jigging imitates the natural response of a baitfish when threatened. If you’re on a dock and scare school of snappers, killies, silversides, or any other baitfish, you’ll see that they dart a short distance in the blink of an eye. Their way to survive is to outswim their siblings when threatened and let the slowest get eaten. So if a predator fish such as striped bass comes up behind a baitfish, that fish would expect it to dart, and they also know that baitfish can only dart a short distance before losing stamina. They know the baitfish will become easy pickings after darting a very short distance. This part appeals to the visual aspect of the fish feeding, but this retrieve also appeals to the lateral line senses of a predator fish. The lateral line is a highly evolved organ that takes up a large percentage of a fish’s brain. It allows a fish to know what’s going on around it spatially. Snap-jigging not only looks realistic to a fish but feels realistic, too. The hard snap will create a bow wave that the lateral line will pick up. The combination of the two is something most predator fish can’t turn down.
Several different things came together to allow me to develop snap-jigging. Starting in the 80s, my friend Bob Antici and I did a lot of ultra-lite fishing for freshwater species on the island. We used 4-1/2-foot rods and 2-pound Trilene mono. To impart much action on the little 1/32-ounce jigs we were throwing, we found that we had to jig hard to overcome the short rod and rubber-band fishing line (monofilament). When the habit of jigging hard was transferred to our saltwater fishing, our productivity increased substantially.
Around the same time, I was surf fishing from Shinnecock East County Park when I found myself watching stripers crash tinker mackerel schools. I remember thinking that the standard bucktails of the day looked horrible when amongst the school of mackerel—nothing would hit it. That night I went home and tied a bucktail that looked like a mackerel. The next day I caught several good fish on it. That was the first premium bucktail. This is important because this bucktail and the subsequent ones I tied didn’t need pork rind or any trailer. I had tied feathers instead. This allowed for a quicker “take-off” when jigged. It also allowed a lighter bucktail to sink quicker and cast further. The feathers do not add much resistance while increasing the profile. Bobby and I quickly found that jigging these bucktail beauties was quite an advantage, even in the winter Northport Power Plant fishery where the stripers were pressured and picky years ago.
We were already doing quite well when braided line came along. What a game changer the zero stretch was! The results were terrific when we put this line on and jigged the way we were jigging. I quickly learned that the harder I snapped the rod, the more fish I caught. I was catching more fish everywhere—New York, The Florida Keys, New Jersey. It was even working as well on freshwater fish.
It took some time to perfect the exact motion. It also took some time to perfect what was needed regarding tackle. One needs the right rod first of all. The rod should be 6 feet or very close to it. Too long a rod and you won’t be able to snap hard enough; the leverage will be too much to overcome after a short time. The same holds true with a rod that’s too fast. You’ll need a rod with moderate action. There are production rods that fit the bill, or you can have one built. I find it hard getting a 6-foot blank that is right. I usually have to buy a longer blank and cut it to 6 feet to get the right action.
You will also need a hi-vis braid of 10-pound test. I say this at every seminar, and I still have people come up to me or come out on a charter and say they can’t feel bottom, and I can tell right away, or they admit that they’re not using 10-pound test. Don’t be wary of the light classification of 10-pound test braid. We catch much larger fish on this line and often bring them in as quickly as those using standard tackle. We have caught many tarpon over 120 pounds up to 200, and almost all are caught in about 35 minutes. Forty-pound striped bass are almost always landed in under 10 minutes. In most modern formulas, 10-pound braid usually breaks at over 20 pounds. Early in my surfcasting career, I used 15-pound Andy mono for fishing Montauk and the inlets with no problem. That mono probably broke at lower poundage than 10-pound braid. Most species we target here in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic coast stay relatively close to the bottom, especially the larger specimens. The light braided line will allow you to feel the bottom and effectively fish it. For the leader, a 5-foot length of 20- to 30-pound fluorocarbon is standard.
A reel with a quality drag is also essential, as is the correct setting of that drag. Far too often, I see drags that are set way too light. If in doubt, get a scale, set it at 3 pounds, and try to remember how that feels when you pull on the line against it. This way you can set it when in the field.
There is an offshoot technique that we use when in water over 45 feet. It is this technique that some are incorrectly referring to as snap-jigging. We call it deep-snapping. It becomes increasingly harder to feel the bottom when the water gets deeper than 45 feet. Usually, we are fishing rips and drop-offs with different speed currents in different parts of the water column. This, plus the depth, makes it very hard to feel the bottom. This is where deep-snapping comes in. instead of a mainly horizontal retrieve, it’s a very vertical one. You will drop the jig straight down, snap up, hold a second, and lower to the bottom. Snap up at anything affecting the line. It will either be a fish or bottom. The depth also allows the fish to be less wary and hit more readily under the boat—something they may be shy about in shallower water. This is a killer method for big sea bass and cod, as it is with bass and weakfish. One can use the same tackle as snap jigging as I often do or go with a longer rod. Deep snapping doesn’t put as much pressure on your wrist so the longer rod can be used. I would suggest getting the lightest, most sensitive rod you can. We still use 10-pound high-vis braid and a reel with a good drag.
Keep an eye out for part two of this feature in the future, where I will go in-depth about how to properly and effectively perform these techniques.